David Livingstone

annaDavid Livingstone is regarded as one of the most popular Scottish heroes of the 19th century.

The famous explorer, doctor and missionary was born in Blantyre on March 19 1813 and employed in H Monteith & Co. cotton mill, working 12 hour days, from the age of 10.

Livingstone’s interest in science and nature led him to investigate the relationship between religion and science and in 1832 he read Philosophy of a Future State by science teacher and minister Thomas Dick. The book was a big influence on him and helped reconcile his faith and science.

He entered Anderson College, now the University of Strathclyde, in 1836 as a medical student and moved to Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in 1838. He soon joined the London Missionary Society and was accepted for missionary training.

He had originally hoped to go to China, however, following the outbreak of the First Opium War and a meeting with missionary Robert Moffat, he focused his attention on South Africa, making his first trip in December 1840. He spent three weeks in Cape Town, eventually reaching Kuruman in July 1841.

Unimpressed by Kuruman’s missionary centre, he visited Kwena and started to talk about creating new centres further north in South Africa. During 1842 he worked in Kuruman as a preacher, doctor, builder and printer and in January 1844 he co-founded a mission at Mobotsa.

He married his wife, Mary, the daughter of missionary Robert Moffat, in 1845 and she gave birth to their son and daughter in 1846 and 1847. Livingstone journeyed across South Africa from 1851 until his death in 1873. He also set up the first links with Malawi. He was the first European to see the Victoria Falls and one of the first Westerners to make a transcontinental journey across the country.

He returned to Britain in the 1850s and found fame as one of the world’s leading explorers following the publication of a book about his travels. He was a proponent of trade and Christian mission and believed the key to achieving these was the navigation of the Zambezi River.

In 1857 he resigned from the London Missionary Society after it demanded that he do more evangelising and less exploring and, with the help of the British Government, returned to Africa as the head of an expedition to examine and open up the Zambezi River. The mission lasted six years and was called off in 1864 when it failed to find a route through the Zambezi.

In January 1866 he returned again to find the source of the Nile. However, during this mission he became very ill and, after witnessing the massacre of 400 Africans by slavers, he gave up and returned to Ujiji in October 1971. It was here that he met Henry Morton Stanley, who had been sent by the New York Post to find him. Livingstone remained in Africa until his death in Chief Chitambo’s village at Ilala on May 1 1873. He died from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery.

However, his faithful attendants Chuma and Susi were determined to return his body to Britain. They removed his heart and buried it in Chief Chitambo’s village and then carried his body over thousands of miles to the coast. His remains were later interred at Westminster Abbey.

Livingstone was a inspiration to explorers, missionaries and abolitionists of the slave trade. He discovered Lake Ngami, Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls and Lake Bangweulu and his observations allowed large regions of South Africa to be mapped for the first time. He was also awards the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London and made a fellow of the group. Even now he is still continuing to make a difference to the lives of people in South Africa, with First Minister Alex Salmond recently announcing £5 million funding for aid projects in Malawi during a March week of celebrations to mark the explorer’s 200th anniversary. The archives of David Livingstone are maintained by the University of Glasgow.

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  1. I like the photo in this article. Its touching and a photo not often seen. Livingstone didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his children (something i couldnt imagine!) but it’s clear he was a devoted father anyway.

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